2019 Beer In Review

I’m a little late on this post because I’ve been busy, which is basically the story of all of 2019. Both busy and not busy but in different ways.

Leadership:

In 2019, I served as the Competition Chair for the homebrew club, while my wife served as President. Needless to say, we were extremely busy with these responsibilities. Involved in planning every event, two meetings a month (board and general), running and planning two of the competitions plus the mid-year picnic and holiday party, it was a big deal.  The irony is that being up to my neck in homebrew club prevented me from being a homebrewer. Fewer open weekends, so I didn’t brew as much, didn’t go to as many festivals, didn’t enter as many competitions and didn’t judge as much. It was a difficult year, but I got to stretch my boundaries and everything worked out in the end.

Brewing:

This is where this year took the hardest hit. I was only able to brew three batches this year. A batch of CDA in April for our spring IPA competition, a Norwegian style farmhouse ale in August (playing around with a new yeast strain) and then another batch of CDA in September, to be ready in time for our big competition in November. That’s it.

Competitions:

Along with not brewing much, I didn’t enter many competitions this year either. The stout that I entered in Stout Bout and the Belgian Dark that I entered in NHC and Fall Classic were 2018 brews.  The CDAs and Norwegian Farmhouse got decent scores and good feedback but I didn’t win any medals this year. It felt like a bit of a letdown compared to the last two years, but of course I wasn’t entering a lot.

Travel:

2019 wasn’t quite as crazy travel-wise as 2018 was, but we still managed to squeeze in a couple small trips and one big one. We started the year with a short trip to San Francisco in January, which honestly feels so long ago I nearly forgot about it. Managed to hit up three breweries while we were there, San Francisco Brewing Co, which is right next to the Ghiradelli Chocolate shop. Primo location.  Cellarmaker Brewing, which was in SOMA near our friends apartment and Half Moon Bay Brewing which was out on the coast. Apparently, I never got around to writing a blog post about this trip. That whole busy thing. In May, we took a trip down to Southern Oregon and Northern California. We set our home base in Grants Pass Oregon which gave us access to Crater Lake and the Redwoods National Park. We found three breweries in Grant’s Pass. Wild River Brewing and Pizza, Climate City Brewing and Conner Fields Brewing. In July, we took a trip up to Tacoma, Washington to get stamps at the newest McMenamins property and finish our second set of passports.  While we were there, we also hit up Harmon Brewing, 7 Seas Brewing, Barhop Brewing (Port Angeles), Pacific Malting and Brewing, Odd Otter Brewing Co. and the McMenamin’s Elks Temple itself, which has a brewery. Lastly, our big trip in November was to New York City. We only made it to three breweries, two in NYC and one on our side trip to Philadelphia. We hit up Coney Island Brewing and Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn and then Yards Brewing Co. in Philly. We got to try a lot of the local stuff as well at bars and bottles from the store.

Looking Ahead:

We skipped it in 2019, but this year my wife and I will be returning to Bend for the Best of Craft Beer competition in early February. I’m looking forward to judging again this year. I’m also hoping to make it up to Seattle this year to judge the National Homebrew Competition regionals. I haven’t been able to make it before. I think judging something that big will be a good and useful experience, I’ve also heard it’s a blast. Judges go home with a ton of swag, or so I’ve been told. I’m not ashamed to admit my judging services can be “bought” with a nice lunch and a couple bottles to take home. That’s what’s so alluring about Best of Craft Beer. It’s also just a lot of fun.

I haven’t brewed yet this year, but I have a couple of ideas. I want to brew a Kolsch while it’s cold. I don’t have any temp controls, but the second bedroom gets down to about 62 if we close the door and don’t run the heat. Perfect for a cold fermented ale. I didn’t brew my strong Belgian this past year, but I’m thinking I’m might go for something lighter (at least in color) and brew a Belgian Golden Strong or a Tripel. I’m hoping for something that maybe doesn’t need to age as long and can be drunk fresh. I’m sure there will be at least two more batches of CDA down the line, gotta keep those coming for sure. Beyond that we’ll see how it goes. I have some ideas.

Tacoma Washington

Last weekend my wife and I spent the weekend in Tacoma, Washington for her birthday. Tacoma is about a 2.5 hour drive north of Portland, not quite all the way to Seattle.  The original inspiration for the trip was to visit the newly opened McMenamins Elk Lodge, which we needed to get stamps from to finish our second set of passports and become Cosmic Tripsters once again.  Following our trip to Crater Lake and The Redwoods, we decided to also drive up to Olympic National Park and continue our National Parks exploration. Despite having other plans, when you work at a brewery and write a beer blog it’s hard not to include beer tourism. We managed to visit a whopping seven breweries over the weekend. Tacoma was bigger than I expected and there was more to do there than I expected and we’ll certainly make a return trip at some point.

The first day we visited the Tacoma Museum of Glass, which was pretty cool and featured a lot of art from Tacoma native Dale Chihuly, known world wide for things like his chandelier at the Bellagio and on several cruise ships as well as large displays in Seattle and other cities.  After dinner (poké!) we hit up two breweries within walking distance of downtown Tacoma.  First was Harmon Brewing. Located right on Pacific Avenue we walked in and sat at the bar. It was hopping, but not super crowded.  My wife ordered the Double IPA “To the Dome” which is a double reference to the Tacoma Dome arena nearby and a double IPA going to your head. I ordered the GABF medal winning Puget Sound Porter.  We got served in plastic cups, which seemed to be either a bar thing or dealers choice from the servers, we couldn’t tell.  The beers were good, but it was loud and crowded and after one beer we decided to move on.

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Classy AF.

We hiked up the hill (literally) to 7 Seas Brewing and this place was really cool. It had a modern sort of hip open-warehouse vibe, but it’s built in the old Hiedelberg brewery (part of Columbia Brewing Co, who also made Olympia and Rainer before they got bought by Pabst).

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They were playing a recorded live Queen concert, for those of us who weren’t at the Queen + Adam Lambert show that night in the Tacoma Dome.  We didn’t find out about it until we were on the way up. Oh well.  The beer here was excellent! My wife really liked their CDA, which she is really picky about, and I got a seasonal limited run IPA and their year round double IPA (Ballz Deep.. yeah that’s the name) which were both solid. My wife followed up the CDA with a hibiscus brut IPA that was really floral and complex and quite tasty.

The following day we drove up to the Olympic National Park which was pretty incredible. It was partly cloudy but we got to see most of the Olympic Mountains from up on Hurricane Ridge, so we called that a win.  The Olympic Peninsula is not the easiest place to get to, but if you’re in the area I highly recommend it. Leaving the park we stopped at Barhop Brewing in Port Angeles (the town you go through to enter the park) and this one was a disappointing stop, thankfully the only one. We walked in and sat on the back side of the U shaped bar, which apparently was a mistake, even though several other patrons were on that side.  We ordered our first set of beers, the Ediz Point IPA and the Citra Sonic IPA which were both really solid and we mulled over the food menu.  We already had dinner plans, but after some mountain hiking needed a snack. We decided on what we wanted and a second round of beers and then crickets… the servers walked past us several times without acknowledging us at all. We waited… and waited.. and finished our first beers.. and waited with empty glasses. Finally, we managed to snag a server and at that point we paid our tab and left. Really a shame because the beer was good, but I guess you don’t need good service when you’re the only game in town. Our time is worth more than that.

That night for dinner we went to the RAM Restaurant and Brewery in Lakewood, near our AirBNB. RAM is a nationwide chain, but they operate in a similar manner to McMenamins. They have 2-3 core beers they brew at every location and then beyond that the local brewers are free to experiment on small batch beers.  There’s a small 5-10BBL system at each location.  We had gotten a coupon to the RAM during our visit to the Museum of Glass and the RAM had a beer on tap (a Kolsch) that the proceeds of the sales went back to the MoG. My wife ordered the Kolsch, which was nice, and I got the Big Red IPA, one of their core beers.  For round two, I ordered the hilariously named “Buttface Amber” (to which the barkeep replied “What did you call me?”) and my wife got the RAM cider (which was made for them by Locust Cider out of Woodenville). I also tried a sample of their Belgian Wit.  They had several Belgian inspired beers on the menu which makes me wonder if that’s a favorite of the local brewer. The food was also really good.

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Our final day in Tacoma we started the day up at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, where nary a drop of beer was to be found, but we knew that night we’d be having dinner and doing our stamp collecting at the McMenamins Tacoma Elks Temple. This building took a long time for them to finish and several of the pictures on the wall reflect the condition they found the building in and all the work that was required. Apparently it was mostly gutted and covered in graffiti and trash on the inside. Seeing the area it’s in, that must of been an eye sore at the end of a busy shopping district.  I think it took a long time for McMenamins to be able to buy the building and get permission to revamp it, but I bet they are happy now that it’s opened.  It’s pretty amazing and shockingly I was too busy gawking I didn’t take any pictures at all.  The Elks Temple has it’s own small brewery in the basement and we tried several beers while we were there. The Wizard Cat IPA was really good, as well as a Belgian Tripel and a Belgian Pale Ale.

Bonus: It’s not beer, but the basement bar of the Elks Temple is a Tiki bar and I got a Hurricane and they served it in this ridiculously fabulous octopus glass, which was made out of clay and was actually quite heavy! This is the ONE picture I took at McMenamins.

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After dinner, we walked down the famous Spanish Steps and across the street to Pacific Malting and Brewing Co. which reopened in the same building as a pre-Prohibition brewery of the same name. There was a live band in there playing 1920s-1930s Blues which was cool, and we got a taster flight to try several of their offerings. The Summer Wheatly (Citrus Pale Ale) was probably the best, followed by the Mama Bear Milk Stout and the Grit Porter, although the porter was most “stout-like” than the stout.  The Boss Hoss IPA was decent, but the Dragonball Hazy IPA was not very good. Kinda sad, but still mostly a winner.

Just a block down from Pacific was Odd Otter Brewing Co. We popped in and sat at the bar and there was live music here as well, and we quickly realized it was open mic night. These were just normal people, patrons of the bar, who brought in a guitar and sang one to two songs and then passed the mic to someone else and they were good! I ordered a glass of the Hibiscus Rosé Saison, while my wife got a taster flight. We tried a small batch Blueberry Wheat, a dry hopped Pale Ale, an IPA, a Schwarzbier and a nut brown ale. They were all really solid except the Schwarz which was too roasty and dry to be enjoyable, which is a shame since it’s a style we’ve both recently discovered we liked. We finished with a small taste of a guest cider (Ace Cider) which was a Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackberry blend and it was delightful.

So that concludes our whirlwind tour of Tacoma Washington.  At some point we will go back and actually stay at the Elks Temple, which is one of the McMenamins hotel properties.

Cheers!